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Arkansas Senate Approves Bill Allowing Guns in Churches

The Arkansas Senate approved a bill on Monday that would allow concealed hand guns to be carried in churches and other places of worship in the state.

The bill, titled Church Protection Act of 2013 and authored by Arkansas State Sen. Bryan King (R-Green Forest), passed the Senate with a 28-4 vote, and allows individual religious leaders to decide if concealed weapons should be allowed in their places of worship.

The proposal lifts the current ban on concealed weapons in places of worship, as Arkansas is one of 10 states which specifically prohibits weapons in churches, according to  The Associated Press.

"It is found and determined by the General Assembly of the State of Arkansas that personal security is increasingly important; that the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States ensures a person's right to bear arms; and that this act is immediately necessary because a person should be allowed to carry a firearm in a church that permits the carrying of a firearm for personal security," the bill reads.

According to AP, King said that the purpose of the bill is to allow rural areas in the state, which are far from police stations, to use their own discretion when managing security.

"This just gives each church the ability to handle their own security," King told senators before the vote.

Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe, a Democrat, has indicated that he will sign the bill should it come to his desk, but it must first pass through a House of Representatives vote.

The bill has been contested by some church leaders, who argue that a concealed weapon has no place in a house of worship.

According to USA Today, Sen. Linda Chesterfield (D-Little Rock), urged lawmakers to vote against the bill proposal on Monday, saying:

"My Lord's house is a house of prayer, not one with guns."

Chesterfield went on to tell lawmakers that she was "trying to wrap my head around how we get Jesus Christ being nonviolent and churches as a house of prayer."

"If there was one person who was anti-violent, it was my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ," Chesterfield added.

The Episcopal bishop of Arkansas and the Catholic Diocese of Little Rock also oppose the bill, arguing that the church should be a place of solace for those facing different issues in their personal lives.

According to ABC local affiliate KATV, should the bill become law, each individual religious leader may choose how to regulate their house of worship; they may continue a complete ban on firearms, allow a select few to carry firearms, or allow all members of the congregation to carry firearms inside the church, given they have the proper permit.

The proposal passed Monday bears a similar resemblance to legislation from 2011, which passed the House of Representatives but did not muster enough votes in the Senate.

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